Must be the season of the witch…
This time, I chose something I thought would be a sure thing.
Title: Blood Moon (The Moonlight Trilogy #1)
Author: Teri Harman
Genre: YA / Supernatural Romance
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Publication Date: June 22, 2013
Paperback: 354 pages
Is There a Pooka in This Book?: No. Just sad owls.
I initially read about Blood Moon through my e-mail subscription to Shelf-Awareness, from which I’ve gotten plenty of stellar book recommendations in the past. Its presence there, coupled with the book blurb I read when I scoped it out on Amazon, convinced me that it was something I desperately needed to get into my hands and then immediately stuff into my eyes. The description reads,
Then, when I tried to get it from my local library, I found that they didn’t have it. Neither did any of the other 27 libraries in the lending consortium. Neither did anyone in the broader, state-wide consortium! What was going on?! The book was playing hard-to-get and it made me want it even more. So, I caved and convinced my friend who works in a bookstore to procure it for me, using her employee discount. Even in my desperation, I can be cunning and thrifty. I’ve gotta say, though, I wish I was a less persuasive Pooka….
What Made the Book Totally Worth Eating:
1. The presentation.
The cover design, done by Pixology Design, is truly a work of art. On top of being intricate, and subtle, and not having a girl’s face on it with her hair blowing in the wind, it’s a fantastic texture. It’s matte, not glossy, and… I don’t even know how to explain it, honestly. I’ve been googling for the past ten minutes, trying to figure it out, so that one day I may have the knowledge for when I write and attempt to publish my own book. My best guess is that it’s a “rich, soft-touch laminate.” If you have a chance to reach out and touch (or nibble on) Blood Moon, do not hesitate.
2. Simon… sort of.
Lucky for her (as Pookas are irresistible), Willa’s love interest, Simon, isn’t really my type. He’s very serious, quiet, an introvert, blonde. But he does have dark eyes and curly hair, which are traits I can get behind. And Harman thought to pay particular attention to a detail that many YA authors forget: smell. Simon loves to hike, and it’s as if the woods have become infused in his very being; he smells like pine trees and peppermint. I wouldn’t kick a guy who smelled like that out of bed. Add to that the fact that he’s a Healer, and the episode of him healing none other than the most majestic of woodland creatures — a rabbit! (he mends its broken and bloodied foot with a single touch) — and I got a little swoon going on.
3. There’s no love triangle.
Part-way through the book, when Harman introduces a new character – someone with the same gift as Simon (they’re both Mind witches, meaning they can sense others’ emotions and hear their thoughts), I rolled my eyes. “Oh geez, here it comes,” I thought. It seemed inevitable, especially since Charlotte, his “gift counterpart”, a girl “about his…age” was “petite with the look of a porcelain doll – white skin, red lips and dark blond hair tied back in one long braid” (222). I was pleasantly surprised to find that no dramatic love triangle developed. I hope that holds true throughout the following books of the trilogy. It was an unconventional move and one I appreciated. There can be another pretty girl, and she can be a friend, not a threat.
4. Solace… sort of.
Like Simon & Charlotte, Willa, the protagonist, is a witch with a gift. She’s not a Mind witch, but a Dreamer with the rare Power of Spirits. This means that she has prophetic dreams (about the past, present, and future), and that she can see ghosts. Her best friend, Solace, is one such ghost. In the beginning of the novel, before Willa knows she’s a witch (when she thinks she’s just a freak), she’s working alongside Solace at the museum where she volunteers, cleaning an antique candlestick and a note falls out of the bottom. It’s a mysterious list of names. When Willa expresses interest in playing detective and finding out more about the note, Solace offers her help – with one caveat. She insists that Willa read Sherlock Holmes first, explaining haughtily “I don’t want to work with an amateur” (53). As the story progresses, however, she becomes whiney and stubborn and sullen, and while the change in attitude is partially understandable, I still ended up liking her a whole lot less.
5. The personification of trees.
I’m a total tree-hugger. This shouldn’t be surprising, as I’m part and parcel of nature. Witchcraft is nature worship. The five points of the pentagram represent Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit, and the center symbolizes the womb of the Goddess. All of the elements were described often in Blood Moon, as were trees. Sometimes, the trees were ashamed or forlorn, like when they were in the presence of the book’s villain. They “turned their faces away from the Dark that trailed after him as he moved around, preparing things” (247). When he performed evil rituals in a Church, a previously good and sacred space, “The only remaining parishioners, a collection of ancient trees, bowed their limbs forward in futile prayer” (194). And sometimes, like in the following, gorgeous passage, they were joyous.
The sun breathed fire across the late evening sky. Deep, rich red, pink, and orange washed the underbellies of the clouds, bathing the earth in decadent light. Thick, fresh summer air swirled down from the heavens and circled around the tall willow tree, tossing its lithe branches back and forth.
Amelia Plate put out her hand and let the slender leaves tickle her palm. She laughed and pulled her hand back to rub away the sensation. Tilting her head back, she looked up through the branches, watching them dance and play on the breeze. The motion made her pleasantly dizzy.
Standing there, under the umbrella of the old tree, she felt the magic moving, alive and vibrant (77-8).
What I Spit Back Out:
1. Oh, God – or as the witches would say, Holy Mother Moon! – , the cheese.
As soon as I started reading, I knew I had made a mistake. I experienced instant buyer’s remorse. But, not being one to give up on a book (especially one that I actually paid for), I kept reading. Willa & Simon’s relationship was the main focus of the book – and the prose describing it was so, so cheesy. As the story progressed, the cheese curdled and aged and developed sharp, distinctive flavors. It made me wish I’d shape-shifted into a mouse rather than a bunny – because then I could actually enjoy it! Examples are in order.
Cheddar Cheese (i.e. Example #1):
Long ago, he’d resigned himself to a solitary life. But Willa had awakened a desire in him he’d smothered in his childhood. The intensity of that desire rocked him, took his breath away. The thought of having someone, of not being alone, was a sweet, powerful temptation. But his mind screamed caution (63).
Sharp Provolone (Example #2):
“His mind screamed caution”?! And “the bulk of well used muscles”?! Not to mention that one of the characters is named “Wynter,” with a “y” no less. Oof. I literally drew slices of swiss cheese in the margins. And then there were the spells.
Water so cool and clear. I hold no envy or fear. Open my mind, clear my sight. Reveal to me your mystic light. (81).
I know spells are supposed to rhyme, but… it was too much. Maybe it would’ve been better if, like Emily Dickinson, the witches told it slant. But they didn’t – they went right at it, directly, like a Hallmark greeting card. And this was all within the first third of the book. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t initially expecting Blood Moon to be a YA Supernatural Romance. I thought it’d be more like The Magicians by Lev Grossman or Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – a story with teenaged protagonists, but with writing that was decidedly for adults. I don’t know what gave me that impression. Something Shelf Awareness did, I think. But even for YA (a genre in which a certain amount of cheese is expected [but not always delivered]), the writing and the emotions were a little heavy-handed.
2. The sub-par editing job.
There are incorrect pronouns (“his” instead of her, p. 98), incorrect character names (on p. 203, Willa asks if “Solace” had another daughter, when she never had a first daughter or any children whatsoever. The name should have been “Camille”), homophone mix-ups (“passed” instead of “past” on p. 238), and examples of redundancy throughout the text. And I didn’t have an ARC. This was a legitimate printing that I purchased, surprisingly. The repetitive phrasing was the most rampant error. One example reads, “Wynter’s imprisonment was connected to a terrible sequence of events set in motion long ago. Something that had started with her poor, sweet Amelia. Something she had also been powerless to stop. Poor Amelia. I’m sorry I left you so soon” (141). The second instance of the word “poor” could have been replaced with a different word. And again, a little later, “While perusing the girl’s mind, I also discovered that the other undiscovered witch is a male Mind” (197). Perhaps Harman could have used “learned” instead of “discovered” if she was going to describe Simon as “undiscovered” in the same breath. Further on, “In all her years of purgatory as a ghost, she had not once had the courage or desire to go in. The memories were too harrowing. She closed her eyes briefly and then stepped in” (287). The verb + “in” sentence construction, two times, felt awkward. “Entered” could have worked nicely, or even “crossed the threshold” for the second time. And one more example (though not these are not the only selections I could have made), “Anger, red and blinding, roiled inside him, his actions turned desperate. He threw anything he could think of at ____, but the damned ____ witch was much stronger than he anticipated. Desperate, he growled and charged forward, tackling _____ to the mud” (325). [Blanks are standing-in for details that would provide spoilers]. Poor, poor, discovered, undiscovered, go in, stepped in, desperate, desperate. Blah, blah. Put simply, I found the book to have a complete lack of polish. Sometimes I think I’d like to try my hand at the editing thing. Either I’d be a rockstar, and books would be better for it, or I’d become more forgiving of errors; Right now, I can’t understand how so many imperfect drafts are making it into print and onto the shelves. I blame the editors more than the author for this, but regardless of who’s to blame, the errors still make for a weak final product. (I feel a little strange calling a book a “product.” Should I have said “piece of art?”). They interfere with the reader’s enjoyment of the text. They take the reader out of the story, lessening the chances of becoming completely immersed.
3. The “bad guys” weren’t believable.
I didn’t have a problem with the main villains – Archard & Holmes – but I didn’t feel like the Dark Covens, en masse, were well-crafted. If they’ve got a problem sacrificing animals or using the Darkest of Dark texts to achieve a full, True Covenant, how bad-ass could they really be? If you’ve got a problem gutting an owl or reading a banned book, you probably wouldn’t join up with the Dark in the first place – let alone desire to bring The Dark Ages x2 upon the Earth.
4. Simon & Willa were inexplicably ignorant about commonly-known facts.
They had to be told what a “coven” was (164). Seriously, even if you don’t believe in magic, if you’re old enough to go to college (if you’re smart enough to be pre-med, for
Christ’s Gaia’s sake!), and you’re the type of person who can talk to ghosts or heal living things with a touch of your hand, you know the goddamn word “coven.” There were other weird witch things, too, like the the fact that the Dark witches still used the exclamation “Holy Mother Moon!” Aren’t mothers all about creation whereas Dark witches are about destruction? Wouldn’t/shouldn’t they have a different god entirely?
I wasn’t impressed with Blood Moon. I won’t be reading the second book in the trilogy. I want my $13.00 back. That money could’ve kept me up to my ears in alfalfa for weeks! Now it’ll have to be boring, old Romaine for the foreseeable future. Poor, sweet Amelia? More like poor, sweet Pooka.
I’m also disappointed that it’s the end of July, meaning that it’s the end of Witches & Wizards month over at Megan Likes Books and I didn’t read a single book in the genre that I liked. I’m usually enchanted by magical, witchy books! What I wouldn’t give for a spell that tacked on 48 hours to the end of this month, so I could read Near Witch by Victoria Schwab and count it toward the Paranormal Reading Challenge. I’m sure that one’s good. Right? Right?!?! I might be reading it anyway, in the upcoming weeks, just to prove to myself that there are good witchy works being published. Ah well, if I can’t read a good book, I’m at least going to listen to a good song. I suggest you join me.
Pooka Rating: 2 out of 5 Nibbles.